Most Bariatric Surgery Patients experience a wide range of Holiday eating anxieties which can actually ruin a perfectly good Holiday around friends and family.
Prior to surgery, Holidays meant family, friends, and lots of food to indulge in and enjoy – often at a glutinous rate simply because Holiday foods are “special” because they are only provided during the season and they are prepared so carefully which adds guilt if you don’t partake of it.
How many times do you hear these phrases said at a Holiday gathering?
“That’s ALL you’re going to have? I worked so hard on that dish…”
“You better eat this now, because it won’t be here for another year….”
“It will hurt my feelings if you don’t eat this…..”
“These are very special ingredients I ordered specifically for this dish…”
“You can’t be NOT HUNGRY… it’s a Holiday!”
“Just ONE LITTLE BITE, PLEEEEEZEEEEZ…..”
“Have more, there’s plenty…”
“Take some of this home with you if you’re not going to eat it now…”
“Oh nonsense! You’re allowed to eat a lot today!”
“You should have worn your FAT PANTS to gorge yourself like the rest of us…”
OH, how this list could fill a book, right? Such comments add enough stress to non-surgery individuals who carefully watch their weight, let alone those who have had the Bariatric surgery and have to be careful what they eat, how much they eat, and how often they eat. So you are NOT ALONE in feeling some anxiety about being around all of the special food at gatherings this season.
I’d like to offer some suggestions that have worked for me and others during this most stressful time when Holidays equates to special foods and the pressure to partake in them is way too much out of hand at times.
1. Prepare you mind for the event: Reflect on past Holiday experiences and evaluate what lies ahead this year for you. Have it in your mind what you will say and do when those food-pushers taunt you or down-right threaten you to eat during the “special occasion.
2. Anticipate the food: Reflect on past Holiday foods that are always provided to you within your social circle. Predetermine what you WILL eat and what you WON’T eat. Making a decision ahead of time will curb your gut-reaction to “cave in” to the urgings by others to eat what you shouldn’t eat.
3. Never try anything new at the party: Not knowing how you will react to the food carries the high risk of making you ill and calling for you quick retreat to the bathroom or feeling sick for an hour or so. This will draw attention to you, which is something you don’t’ want. The host and guest will feel badly for you, so don’t put them or you in such a situation. Only eat things that you are absolutely certain that you can tolerate.
4. Take baby-bites of the “special” foods: Literally, take a baby-bite if you absolutely must partake of foods strictly for the social expectations. If it’s too much for a baby’s mouth, then you’re putting too much on the spoon or fork.
5. No-Guilt in Tossing it: In a social event where you don’t’ want attention drawn to how little you are eating, take a small plate with small portions of food, then take small bites of each item, then TOSS the rest away when no one is looking. This gives the appearance that you’re “normal” and all will assume you have gotten your fill. This spares hurting the feelings of Great Aunt Gerdie who truly does cry if you refuse her special 60%-sugar/90%-fat/carb-loaded/stroke-on-a-plate pie. Tossing out the unwanted uneaten portions is just a “different” way of consuming… so don’t’ feel guilty about it. All that matters is that Great Aunt Gerdie delights in seeing her pie disappearing.
6. Eat healthy before you go and bring your own essentials: Never go to a Holiday party hungry… NEVER! This is self-sabotage in the worst way! Enough said? Take along your own treats and drinks that are RNY-Friendly to you. Don’t request an extra effort on your host. You know what you need, so take it with you. While they are eating pies and cakes, you can have the sugar-free fudge sickles you brought along or those sugar-free pudding cups. And if they are serving only sodas or alcohol and you cant’ do them, bring your own herbal teas or no-sugar-added hot chocolate packets. This will make you, the host, and the guests feel comfortable and nobody will feel that you are “suffering” as they eat your NO-NO’s.
7. Talk more than you eat: The Holidays should be about PEOPLE, not food. So be social. Focus on the people; laugh with them, tell stories, listen to their tall tales, play games, etc. If you do these things, you’ll be amazed at how well the gathering will go for you simply because you didn’t focus on food. And when the food-pushers come along, just glance by them off into the distance and make your exit because you “want to talk to so-n-so or your cell phone is vibrating and you’ve got to excuse yourself for the call…. Perfectly acceptable to have a pre-planned “way out” when you need one.
8. Change the food-subject: Others may want to cry boo-hoo with you if you keep telling them of all the foods you’re missing out on this year. Don’t do that! Rather than mourn the loss of your favorite Holiday treats, brag on the fact that you’re feeling so much healthier, your clothes are getting baggier, and you’re dreaming again of all the great things that are in store for you now that you are slimming down. Don’t’ allow anyone to pity you for not eating like you used to eat.
9. Wear a “knock-out” outfit: WOW them all this Holiday season by wearing a special outfit that you feel very proud to be seen in. The food isn’t special to you anymore… you’ve swapped that for the special outfits you can now wear! Let people whisper to each other how great you look rather than how little you are eating. The stress of not eating so much will be far away to you when you feel good about yourself and look good too.
10. Make your visit brief: if you are getting too much pressure from others or are experiencing too many anxieties, let leave the gathering earlier than you originally planned. Maybe you’re tired, the roads are getting bad, you realized you need to do something… remember that “pre-planned” escape should be there for you if you need it.
I can attest that these are tactics that I’ve used and STILL use in social gatherings when it is expected to eat special foods during special times. Granted, I am three years post-op, so my anxieties are not as high as they once were… but they certainly threatened my Holiday happiness not too long ago!
Remember this most of all…. The more prepared you are ahead of time, the less you’ll feel nervous about those awful Holiday Eating Anxieties. Now go have fun!